Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Think Disney Needs our Help

If I were going to rate my interests, Disneyana and shopping would have to be near or at the very top of the list. I receive updates on a nearly daily basis regarding new items available for sale at www.disneystore.com. So considering both of these statements, don’t you find it rather odd that I can’t even remember the last time I made a purchase there?

I’ve got to be honest; not a lot of what is there really grabs my interest. I take that back. Not a lot of what I can afford grabs my interest. Unfortunately, those beautiful Limited-Edition Giclees are out of my price range. And the stuff I can afford doesn’t generally catch my attention. But I’m telling you now, there are some things that if Disney offered them, I would snatch them up in a Peloponnesian minute. Here’s a quick list of a few things that I would love to see Disney put on the market:

1. Mickey Pumpkin Mold – If you’ve ridden Living with the Land at Epcot, you know what I’m talking about. I want one (or several) of the molds that they use to grow the Mickey-shaped pumpkins. I’m sure that Epcot cast members get asked where those can be purchased every day. Hello, Disney; you have a built-in market that’s been waiting for this product for decades. Since when does Disney pass up an opportunity like that?

2. Haunted Mansion TapestriesOuch, ouch! Oh sorry; I was busy kicking myself for not snatching these up when Disney did offer them. Do you remember them? They were wall-hangings depicting the portraits in the Stretching Room of the Haunted Mansion. I am furious at myself for not purchasing them when they were available. I found the one I really wanted on Ebay, but it’s listed at $525. Yikes! If Disney wanted to re-create these or something similar, I’d be most grateful.

3. Speaking of things I regret not buying, I recall at one time there was a Mary Poppins umbrella for sale. It had a parrot-head handle and the umbrella was screened with a beautiful picture of London. I’m regretting missing out on that one, too.

4. Back to the Haunted Mansion, my dining room and parlor would both look great if accented with some appropriate Haunted Mansion merchandise. I don’t mean a snow globe or a poster. I want to decorate those rooms as though they belong in the Haunted Mansion. Imagine the changing portraits staring at you as you eat a dinner similar to the one laid out in the Grand Ballroom. That would be way cooler than serving dinner on red and black Mickey plates, wouldn’t it? (Two more quick words to Disney on the matter of dinnerware: dishwasher safe.) Of course, I’d probably then be tempted to greet my guests in this little number:

It’s sad, but we all know I would.

5. Most of all though, I wish Disney offered a wider range of clothes with a Disney theme. I once bought a black negligee at Mickey’s of Hollywood in what was then Disney-MGM Studios. Good luck coming across anything like that in the parks these days. Now one is hard-pressed to find anything but t-shirts and sweatshirts with a Disney theme. But I for one almost never wear t-shirts, and I can’t believe I’m alone in wanting Disney to design dressier clothes. (By the way Disney, charging $59.95 for a t-shirt and calling it “couture” doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a t-shirt.) Here’s what I have in mind:

1. Imagine the Ann Taylor dress below with a Hidden Mickey design:

Or this sweater in a deep apple red with small apples and mirrors embroidered on the hem:

My rule is, if I wouldn’t wear it anyway, I’m not going to wear it just because it has a mouse on it. But I will pay a premium for things I’d want anyhow that have the added bonus of a Disney theme.

6. Speaking of themes: Can someone please let Disney know the term “Disney Villain” is not synonymous with Nightmare Before Christmas? I like Jack and Sally as much as the next person, but it seems to me like they are squeezing out all of the Disney Villains. I need more Maleficent and Wicked Queen!

7. That reminds me: Halloween Costumes. I am 38 years old. There is no way I’m dressing up as Minnie Mouse for Halloween. Queen Narissa from Enchanted on the other hand:

Heck yeah, I’d wear that!

How about you? What items would you love to see Disney make available for purchase? Please, please, please, let me know over at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene. I’d really like to hear your ideas!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Just Who Is Living In Fantasyland?

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Disney has revamped their plans for the Fantasyland expansion.  Originally, the plans called for a new Little Mermaid ride, as well as increasing the size of Dumbo the Flying Elephant and creating a circus tent to house it in.  Pixie Hollow, a character meet-and-greet area, was to be added for guests to interact with Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.  Additionally, guests were to be able to visit their favorite princesses in their own themed attractions: celebrate Aurora's birthday (that’s Sleeping Beauty, if you weren’t sure), dance with Cinderella, and frolic with Belle in Beast's castle, which would also include a new themed restaurant.

Disney immediately started receiving a lot of flak.  Many who reviewed these plans found them to be too focused on girls, without enough appeal for boys.   It appears the new Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, Tom Staggs, agrees.  According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Staggs claims designers are attempting to rebalance the plans, which initially tilted heavily towards young girls by emphasizing attractions and experiences built around Disney’s stable of animated-movie princesses.  

Do the critics have a point?  Absolutely.  Even with the renaming of Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel to the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (I still haven’t figured out how much of a difference that’s supposed to make), Fantasyland is a little girl’s idea of heaven.  Heck, it’s my idea of heaven.  So I’m not surprised to find out it’s not necessarily appealing to little boys.  But part of me has to ask, “so what?

Now, before you get your panties all in a bunch, let me explain.  Yes, there is a severe princess bias in Fantasyland.  But there should be.  The princesses are the backbone of the Disney fantasy/fairy tale franchise.  They are Fantasyland.  Are they more appealing to girls than boys?  You bet.  Fortunately however, Tomorrowland is right around the corner.  I mean hello, you’ve been to Tomorrowland, right?  If that area isn’t designed specifically for 10-year-old boys, nothing is.  First, there’s Stitch burping chili dogs in your face.  If you are not a prepubescent male and you find that appealing, please keep that information to yourself.  I just don’t want to know. 

Next, there’s the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.  I’m sincerely hoping Disney isn’t trying to convince us that in the future all cars will only go 7 m.p.h.  If so, is it any wonder I want to escape to Fantasyland?  Everything else in Tomorrowland I’m willing to concede at least has the possibility of being as appealing to girls as boys, even if Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (teenage boys will love the acronym) and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin could be argued to be more boy-centric. 

If we’re really going to look at the big picture, I think society as a whole should be blamed for this sexual segregation, not Disney.  After all, we see nothing wrong with a girl liking Space Mountain, but get up in arms about a boy visiting Pixie Hollow.  I say that if the boy has the guts to admit he wants to visit fairies and princesses, more power to him!

Do I think Disney is making the right move with the change in plans?  For me, it has nothing to do with male versus female.  I’m far more interested in attractions versus character meet-and-greets.  My problem with the Fantasyland expansion has nothing to do with the theme; it’s that tons of money is being spent, but only one new bona fide attraction is being added.  If they want to ditch the princess parties and add some more E-ticket rides, I unequivocally vote yes, no matter if they are princess or pirate themed! Here’s a thought: many in the Disney community have been begging for more villain-themed attractions.  What better place for them than Fantasyland? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Might Just be Getting Cynical

A couple of years ago, I bought my husband a sweatshirt at JCPenney.  It was on sale, and curious to know how much of a discount I got, I removed all of the sale stickers when I got home to reveal the original price.  You can imagine how irked I was when I saw that the original price was lower than the price that was showing the tag.  They had marked the price up, in order to put it on sale and make me feel like I was getting a deal.  Needless to say, I was angry.

I mention this because I feel almost as though Disney is currently doing something similar.  They recently announced that adult ticket prices were going up $3 (from $79 to $82 per day), and a child’s ticket would increase $6 (from $68 to $74).  That’s a 3.8% increase on adult tickets and an 8.8% increase on a child’s ticket!

Of course, to remove this unpalatable taste from our mouths, Disney almost immediately announced some discounts for next year.  There’s a Free Dining offer for select dates 10/01/1009/29/11, a $500 gift card option for qualifying bookings during selected times between October 2010 and February 2011, and even some room-only offers.  This leads me to wonder: did Disney raise their prices specifically so that they could try to lure people with new discounts?  Or did they offer the discounts to distract us from the price increases?

On the other hand, it’s very possible that this is just a “cost of doing business” sort of thing, and I’m reading too much into it.  That said, I didn’t get an 8.8% raise this year, or even a 3.8% raise; did you?  Do you think Disney is pulling a “JCPenney”, or do you think these are totally unrelated stories?  Let me know at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene!  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Room for 1,000? I’ll Volunteer!

Geez Louise; I’m out of the loop for one weekend, and I miss one of the best Disney rumors in a while.  I spent the entire weekend working on charity fundraisers, community theatre, and family obligations, so I didn’t read about this until Monday morning.  I’m sure you’ve already heard about it, but it was just too interesting to resist discussing.

According to www.wdwmagic.com, WDW Today, and Inside the Magic (I’m sure there are others discussing this, but those are the ones I’ve encountered thus far) a survey is floating around amongst Disney guests to see what they think of proposed Haunted Mansion and Royal themed rooms at Disney’s Moderate Resorts, along the lines of the Pirate-themed rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

When I first I heard of the Royal rooms, I was picturing something in the pink and purple Disney Princess color scheme that always seems to feature so prevalently in the Princess merchandise at the Disney Store.  I was, shall we say, less than thrilled.  Once I saw a proposed rendition of the room, however, I changed my tune.  Here’s a picture from WDW Magic’s forums:

To me, this looks like a scaled-down re-creation of the suite inside Cinderella Castle, and I would very much enjoy staying in one of these rooms.  Because let’s face it; a night in the Cinderella Castle Suite seems about as likely for me as a lottery win.

But we’re not kidding anyone; the idea that really got my heart racing was the Haunted Mansion room proposal. WDW Magic quotes the survey as saying, “Come spend the night with a few of the happy haunts who play in an enchanted bedroom inspired by the Haunted Mansion. Rest atop the floating Doom Buggy beds with a couple of friendly spooks and watch glow-in-the-dark, cartoon-like footsteps mysteriously appear as the evening sets in. A sliding bookcase creates a hidden passage to the bathroom and is the perfect hiding place for a hitch-hiking ghost. Oversized furnishings with curvy lines and bright colors add to the whimsy in the room. Guests will delight in finding the hidden special effects that play up the merry, rather than scary, room ambiance.”

On the minus side, this mock-up reminds me more of Dr. Seuss than Master Gracey.  I guess I understand, though.  I mean, it probably isn’t a good idea to have your five-year-old wake up in the middle of the night and have Phineas, Gus, and Ezra staring at him from the edge of his bed.  And I love the hidden passage to the bathroom behind the bookcase.  What a marvelous touch!

Of course, there are many unanswered questions, like: What would the cost beHow many of these rooms would be available?  And where would these rooms go?  This is entirely speculation on my part, of course, but I would think the pricing would be similar to that of the Pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach.  In other words, about $30 more per night than a regular moderate room.  I have no idea how many of these rooms Disney would create, but if I were Disney, I’d make as many of the Haunted Mansion rooms as the Royal, Pirate, and Nemo rooms combined.  I have a feeling they will be very popular. 

The most interesting question to me, however, is where Disney would put them.  As I listened to the WDW Today team discuss this, I was screaming at my MP3 player where I thought they should go.  Fortunately Matt, Mike, and Len agreed with me.  The mansions in the Magnolia Bend section of Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort would be the perfect setting for the Haunted Mansion rooms (very reminiscent of the theming of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion), and Port Orleans French Quarter would be a nice fit for the Royal rooms.  After all, Princess Tiana deserves some nice digs, don’t you think? (Although my daughter Kira says that the rooms look more like Charlotte’s style than Tiana’s.)

Again, let me emphasize that this is all speculation.  Disney has released nothing on this themselves.  And we’ve certainly never heard anything from Disney on the last rumor I discussed that was based on a survey; that of a new World Showcase pavilion, in http://disneygene.blogspot.com/2010/05/look-at-all-these-rumors-surroundin-me.html.  (A quick note to Disney: I stand by my assertion in that post that World Showcase needs an E-Ticket attraction, and a Russia pavilion would be the perfect home for it.  I’m just saying…)

Do you think Disney should move forward with these rooms?  Would you pay extra to stay there?  Where do you think they should go?  Speak your piece over at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's a Rich Man's World

I wish I had as much money as Disney seems to think I do.

I’m sure it’s nothing personal, but the Disney Corporation seems bent on making me feel poor. I don’t generally think I am.  We’re a typical family; two incomes, a mortgage payment, two car payments, one daughter who’ll be going to college in a few years, and two dogs.  Granted, I’d probably have more disposable income to send to Disney if I didn’t have Ann Taylor and Williams Sonoma locations permanently programmed into my GPS, but we won’t go there.

But whenever Disney comes out with a new and exciting travel option, I always find myself wondering who in heaven’s name (outside of lottery winners and Hollywood moguls) can afford these things.

Take for example, the 12 Night Northern European Capital Cities Cruise that Disney Cruise line offered earlier this year.  It sounded incredible.  Departing out of Dover, England, the Disney Magic sailed to Scandinavian ports such as Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm, then on to Warnemunde, Germany, and St. Petersburg, Russia. The Disney Magic spent the night in St. Petersburg, allowing Disney Cruise Line guests time to experience the “Cultural Capital of Russia” or use the second day to book a shore excursion to Moscow. I think this sounds incredible.  Unfortunately, so does the price.  Prices started, started, at $3,649 per person for a category 11 stateroom, double occupancy.  And this doesn’t include airfare.  So not counting incidentals, for a couple to just fly from Cleveland to London (find your own way from there to Dover; I didn’t see any flights), take the cruise and fly home, we are taking a starting price of $9,176, plus tax.  That’s, um, not in my budget. Neither are the consolation gifts I’d have to buy Kira for leaving her at home.

Equally tempting and yet totally out of my reach are some of the Adventures by Disney options.  These sound fabulous.  There’s the 6-night England and France Family Vacation (Cities of Knights and Lights) that includes a stage show, visits to Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower.  I would love this.  But for Ray, Kira, and I (including airfare from Cleveland to London and then from Paris back home) we are talking a starting price of $14,793.  (You didn’t really want to go to college did you, Kira?)

What actually prompted me to think of this, however, was the latest ABD trip announced by Disney.  The 7-night Egypt Family Vacation includes a camel ride past the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza, 3 nights in Cairo, a 3-night Nile cruise, and a tour the temples of Philae, Kom Ombo, Edfu, Karnak and Luxor, plus the tombs of Ramses VI and King Tut in the Valley of the Kings. For nothing but the ABD trip and airfare for the three of us, the starting price is a mere $14,777.  (I better not mention this one to Kira.  She might actually choose this over a year in college.)  Also included in of this one, however, is the service of an armed guard.  Disney requires that your group have an armed guard accompanying you at all times.  Doesn’t that just make you feel warm and cozy inside?

I’m not saying that Disney’s prices are out of line.  I’m sure that if I could ever afford them, I’d feel that they were worth every penny.  I’m just saying that Disney is tempting me beyond what I can bear, here!

Am I just out of touch with the cost of vacations these days?  Can you afford these?  And if so, would you like to pay for me to come along as a babysitter for your kids?  Let me know over at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene!  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mea Culpa

Stitch Kingdom recently posted to Facebook that the intro to my article “Let the Memories Begin” looked suspiciously like a news blurb they had written earlier.  Upon reviewing them side by side, I admit that they are correct, and that I worded my intro much more similarly to their press release than I ought to have.  My sincerest apologies to them, and to all of my readers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What Do You Miss?

I’m missing Walt Disney World right now.  Big surprise, right?  Of course, non-Disneyphiles don’t get it, but you do.  Odds are, you are missing WDW right now, too.  Here’s what I’m pining for the most:

  • Disney Service – I spend my whole life seeing to other people’s needs: my boss, my customers, my husband, my daughter, my extended family and friends.  At Walt Disney World, there is an entire staff of people dedicated to taking care of me.  What’s not to love about that?  And while other places pay lip service to customer care, Disney takes it seriously.
  • Lack of Responsibility – I admit it: I take my work laptop and cell phone with me to WDW, but I don’t handle work issues unless they are extremely urgent.  And no cooking, no dishes, no laundry, no housework = absolute heaven!
  • Disney Dining – Whether I’m in the mood for ice cream for dinner or a seven course meal with wine pairings, Disney has me covered!
  • Shopping – I could spend an entire WDW vacation doing nothing but shopping.  Once again, I’m sure you find the surprise overwhelming.
  • Family Time – One of Walt’s original reasons for building Disneyland was to provide an atmosphere where the entire family could have fun together.  Walt Disney World delivers. I love having all of that time with Ray and Kira!
  • Entertainment – Rides, shows, street performers, parades, fireworks: if you are bored at WDW, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • Florida – I love the state of Florida.  I’m too scared of reptiles and annoyed by insects to ever move there, but it is my favorite place to visit.  Sunshine, sand, and palm trees all add up to sheer bliss in my book.  And drinks with little umbrellas in them, of course.
  • Immersive Experience – You’ve heard the expression about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts?  That describes Walt Disney World to a T.  The landscaping is great, the ambient sights and smells are wonderful, the attention to detail is impeccable, but no one individual aspect of these defines the Disney experience.  It’s the way they all come together you to envelop you in a wonderful world separate from the rest of the planet that makes all of the expense, planning, and logistical concerns worthwhile.

So why are you wishing you were in Walt Disney World right now?  Let me know over at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene!